A Long Overdue Update
Yes, I know. It has been forever. Sue me.
I have not blogged much this year because, quite frankly, the blogging bug has long since ceased to have much influence. I have not even read many blogs unless they were linked to me through social networking (that is, Twitter and Facebook). Much of my time and energy has been taken up by several concerns, some of which I will briefly update you on today.
My number one duty, above and beyond being a pastor, is my role as a husband and father. This past year has been one of great change for us. As many of you know, last August 2009 we welcomed a new addition in Cassandra Elaine, and in January our oldest, Grace Elizabeth, turned 2! Much of our time has been taken up in handling two fast-growing little girls and trying our best to keep our marriage centered on God and on each other. It is difficult when one works 3rd shift to do all of these things!
Grace is now exercising her large vocabulary regularly, whereas before she was very quiet and reticent about speaking up. She is still very shy and will not speak in the presence of strangers, and still will not repeat things back to us very much. Grace is a very sensitive soul and still does not like to be the center of attention. She loves sporty things and is always trying to toss a ball or wrestle with me! I’m positive she will be an athlete. She has enough appreciation for girly things that she likes clothes and purses and “playing mommy.” She is a very rambunctious 2 year old and will be 3 in January.
Cassie is the love bug in our family! She turned 1 this August, and is the girly girl. Every time we go out, she is so taken with girly things like clothes and jewelry, more so than Grace is. She began walking this summer and is getting into everything now. In contrast to Grace, she wants every eye on her! I’m convinced she will be the diva of the family!
Tricia and I will have been married 5 years next June. We are hoping to finally be able to celebrate our anniversary with a solo trip, but we will see what circumstances dictate. We have much growing to do together as we continue to deepen our commitment to each other. I cannot imagine being with anyone else, nor would I want to be. I understand today what Adam meant by “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!”
As of right now, there are no immediate plans to have more children. We are leaving this up to the Lord and His timing. We would like to have a boy or two (to balance out the estrogen in our house), so I can tell you there will definitely be more children at some point. We would like to wait a bit and let our girls grow up a little bit, so that way we are not raising a baby with other babies, but instead have two sets of helping hands in Grace and Cassie. So the earliest we might plan to have children again would be next fall (Cassie will be 2). But we are depending on God’s timing and not ours to determine our next child. God willing, we will have several of our own, and at some point in the future we would like to adopt a Deaf child!
I decided last winter that I was fed up with where I was in the job department. 3rd shift has left me quite cranky most days and some days I have to remind myself not to be short with my wife and children. In addition, being bi-vocational is not financially beneficial for most Deaf pastors. I work part-time for our church and part time for UPS, and honestly our finances are not where they need to be. The majority of Deaf churches, ours included, are unable to pay a full-time salary; and while UPS is basically paying our bills, it is still not enough that we are not stretching every paycheck. I believe that wisdom requires me, as a husband and father, to put myself in the best position possible to provide financially, emotionally, and spiritually for my family. This means I need full-time secular or ministry work.
I began looking for promotion from front-line management (a part-time position) at UPS two years ago, and the majority of full-time positions open to me were for those who have a business related degree, which I do not have. So with the counsel of my superiors at UPS and lots of prayer, I decided to return to college to procure a business degree. I have just completed my first semester at the University of Louisville and will be looking to formally transfer into the business school there this spring. The goal is to either receive a promotion to a full-time position at UPS or be able to leave UPS for a full-time position elsewhere. That will allow me to provide for my family and remove reliance on my income as a pastor at Louisville Baptist Deaf Church.
Why not look for full-time ministry work? Partly because there are few full-time Deaf ministry jobs out there. None that I personally know of. As I mentioned, the majority of Deaf churches (I’d wager 99%) are unable to provide a full-time salary for their pastors, and most Deaf pastors I know are bi-vocational. If I were to leave our church, I would have to know for certain that there was another job available for me wherever we went. As it is, I believe in long-term commitment to one’s place of service, and I am committed to LBDC, not seeking to leave, until such time as the Lord makes it clear I am to leave. Further, I am in a place where I am learning from one of the foremost Deaf pastors in America (30+ years of experience), and you can’t beat that!
I have now been at Louisville Baptist Deaf Church as Associate Pastor for 6 years, and involved in the ministry of the church for 10. In that time we have attempted a Deaf church plant, weathered many assaults by Satan on the church generally and on the pastors personally (including very hurtful attacks on me which God used to grow me as a pastor and mature me), moved to a new location at Bethlehem Baptist Church, and begun the process of church revitalization. I have learned so much from our senior pastor Tim Bender and look forward to learning more over the next few years, Lord willing. It is truly a blessing to be able to serve with and learn from a pastor with such a long career of faithfulness to God and His church!
I have been networking quite furiously over the past two years, with the advent of Twitter and popularity of Facebook. I have been able to keep up with many seminary friends and make new ministry friends through these avenues. We have learned much from each other and grown together, and I have been privileged to meet many of these contacts and make new friends through events such as Together for the Gospel and the Southern Baptist Convention. It has been my stated goal to bring awareness of Deaf ministry to the hearing ministry world, and I believe the Lord has opened many doors through this networking experience. I do believe I need to learn to better utilize Twitter and Facebook towards these ends, as the temptation quickly arises to use them for personal entertainment. Not that this is a bad thing, but it can become the be-all and end-all, personal entertainment!
This coming March, I will be attending the 9 Marks Weekender at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. I have told people I will be doing some consulting while there as well as taking the opportunity to get a fantastic learning experience in an intense training weekend. I will have the opportunity to talk with people about Deaf ministry, and I will be using the things I learn at the Weekender and attempting to apply them to a Deaf context. I am also hoping, time permitting, to be able to make contacts at Gallaudet University while I am in Washington. I would like to ask you to pray for this opportunity.
In 2011, I will have the opportunity to preach 5 months out of the year as Pastor Tim and I have worked out our preaching schedule. I will be preaching January, June through August, and November. I am currently praying about what to study for preaching. I am for certain going to preach through one or two books of Scripture, likely an epistle, and spend one or both of the single months preaching on an issue. Please pray for the Holy Spirit to lead me to the Scriptures and issues our church needs addressed.
This preaching schedule will allow Tim to focus on missions work during those months, as he is an officer in the World Congress of Deaf Baptists; and our church along with the Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf supports a Deaf Bible School and church in the Ukraine, and Tim works personally with the pastor and is taking at least two trips a year there. I have been invited to go this year (2011) but do not yet know if I will be able to go.
I am also enjoying my final year as president of Kentucky Baptist Conference of the Deaf. First elected in 2009, I was re-elected this year. It has been a learning experience, as many of our officers (including me) were first time officers and we have had to learn and grow together. It has been encouraging to me to see 2 new Deaf works begin in Kentucky. I am hopeful for the future of Deaf work in this state and in the nation. I will not be president nor in any officer position next year, but I am confident in those Deaf people in leadership today. Perhaps in the future the Lord will allow me to be in leadership again.
As I mentioned, I have just completed my first semester at the University of Louisville. I am taking classes to allow myself to enter the business school there. I finished my first semester with a 3.01 GPA that really should have been higher (3.3 to be exact), but I took an Economics class with a very tough professor with a strange grading system I have never seen before. With a conventional grading system I would have had a B- in the class, but under this odd system instead I got a C, which brought my tally to 2 As, an A-, and the C. As it is, this is enough to transfer into the business school (it requires 3.0), so I will be meeting with an advisor this spring semester to see what I need to do.
This spring I will be taking a full-time load at 14 hours. Now that I have gotten my brain back into a student mode, I anticipate being able to do well in every class. I am using sign language interpreters for the first time ever, and I can tell you that given some of the class sizes I am thankful I opted to have interpreters this time around. I’m used to having small classes where I can sit right in front of the profs, the profs know me, and I’m able to get everything I need. But at Louisville you can have over 100 people in a class, you sit in an auditorium, and you can’t catch everything the professor says! I can’t express enough how much I love interpreters after this semester!
We will be moving this June when our lease is up. We moved last year after receiving notice that our rent was going up, and putting it a little out of our budget. We had little notice of this – our lease was to be up one month after receiving notice, so we had little time in which to find another apartment and move. This move turned out to be a bad one – our new apartment was smaller than we thought it was going to be, we have had lots of problems with pests, maintenance, and parking, and the move actually cost us more money long-term than moving was supposed to save us. We should have stayed where we were and reworked our budget.
But we have decided not to stay in this place any longer than necessary, so beginning in January we will begin looking for either a house or 3-bedroom apartment to rent, preferably a house. With our girls getting bigger and more active, they need to be able to go outside to play instead of being inside most of the time. This will also allow us to stay home instead of taking the girls out to get them out of the house, saving us gas money! We are hoping that the Lord will provide us with a place that is within our budget and make the move financially possible. Please pray for this.
I will be praying for the Lord’s direction regarding my employment. I would like to remain at UPS, but I am praying for doors to open for a different placement. Perhaps moving to a different department, especially as I do more coursework in the business school. Perhaps a full-time opportunity will come along. Perhaps God will offer me a change of scenery and lead me away from UPS. Perhaps God will even provide full-time ministry work! I am content to remain where I am and work the plans I have before me until God shows me His will.
I will be praying as well for the direction of our church. With our move we have seen immediate benefit. Our attendance has grown. We are hoping our members’ commitment, discipleship, and evangelism will grow as well. Our girls are now excited to go to church since there are other children at Bethlehem Baptist. Grace gets mad if we don’t take her to church every Sunday and Wednesday! I mentioned before that we are in the process of church revitalization – we will be praying over this process as well. We developed a new church mission statement and voted to keep our name instead of renaming LBDC. We are working on discipleship and changing our culture from passive to active. I also need to change my mindset to one that is active instead of reactive in order to model this to our people. Please be in prayer for the presence and leadership of the Holy Spirit as we do this.
Well, that is the update in 2500 words. I pray this finds you enjoying your holiday!